Sen. Bernie Sanders pushed Hillary Clinton to take a position on taxing carbon last night, saying the world is on a “suicide course” that can’t be corrected without a massive response to climate change similar to America’s mobilization during World War II.

“We have an enemy out there. And that enemy is going to cause drought and floods and extreme weather disturbances,” Sanders said during the ninth Democratic debate, held in New York City. He said the nation should respond as if it were “literally under war.”

The attempt by the Vermont senator to depict his candidacy as more urgent than Clinton’s on the issue of climate change comes five days before New York primary voters cast their ballots in a nominating contest that shows no signs of ebbing three months before the party’s convention.

The debate deepened divisions between the candidates about the best way to deal with rising temperatures. Sanders supports expansive policies that would apply a price on carbon dioxide throughout the economy. Clinton suggests that’s far-fetched idealism that couldn’t survive Republican opposition. She is instead calling for expanded renewable energy programs.

“I would ask you to respond. Are you in favor of a tax on carbon?” Sanders asked Clinton.

She responded: “I don’t take a back seat to your legislation that you introduced that you haven’t been able to get passed. I want to do what we can do to actually make progress in dealing with the crisis. That’s exactly what I’ve proposed. And my approach, I think, is going to get us there faster without tying us up into political knots” with a carbon tax bill that can’t pass.

The candidates also sparred over oil and gas fracking, donations by the fossil fuel industry, and their level of support for President Obama’s regulatory efforts to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at power plants.

Clinton encouraged the use of hydraulic fracturing among U.S. allies when she served as secretary of State to alleviate the use of coal and to sap Russian influence in Europe.

That led to a question by a debate moderator about her recent change of position on fracking. Clinton said in a previous debate that the controversial drilling technique using water and chemicals to extract natural gas would be curtailed around the country if she’s elected.

“I don’t think I’ve changed my view on what we need to do,” she said.

“For both economic and environmental and strategic reasons, it was American policy to try to help countries get out from under the constant use of coal—building coal plants all the time,” Clinton said. “We did say natural gas is a bridge. We want to cross that bridge as quickly as possible, because in order to deal with climate change, we have got to move as rapidly as we can.”

Sparring on fracking

Sanders is calling for a national ban on fracking, in part because developing natural gas releases methane, a potent greenhouse gas. He also criticized Clinton for proposing a plan that includes the installation of 500 million solar panels and providing clean electricity for every home within 10 years.

“This is a difference between understanding we have a crisis of historical consequences and incrementalism,” Sanders said. “Those little steps are not enough. Not right now. Not on climate.”

“The truth is, the secretary of State, Secretary Clinton, actively supported fracking technology around the world,” he added.

Animosity has grown between the candidates over Sanders’ accusations that Clinton is overly influenced by fossil fuel industry donations. Clinton has called that a lie. Last night, she said both her campaign and Sanders’ have accepted money from employees in the oil and gas sector.

Greenpeace released data after the debate saying Clinton and the super political action committee that supports her, Priorities USA Action, have received $4.5 million from the oil and gas industry. About $1.5 million of that came from 59 lobbyists and bundlers, Greenpeace said.

The group called on Clinton to reject future donations from lobbyists, suggesting that corporate donors have special access to candidates.

The League of Conservation Voters, which supports Clinton, released an email describing her as the strongest candidate to address climate change.

Reprinted from Climatewire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. www.eenews.net, 202-628-6500